The Truth Behind Heavy Rotation

Without a doubt one of the most controversial music videos released by AKB48 was Heavy Rotation.

(Heavy Rotation: The controversy)

Incensed idol fans, typically of rival idol groups and hailing from outside Japan, rallied behind the video as the epitome of poor taste. Heavy rotation was proof of AKB48 pandering to perverts. They claimed the video sickened them as it reduced girls to nothing but sexual objects. If you read their rants you too might believe that this one video was capable of setting back the course of womans rights by decades.

However it was always my belief that people will find any reason to justify their personal and cultural bias in an attempt to exert their will upon others. They will use any string of thought no matter how tenuous and wait for their personal Yes-Men squad to roll in and validate into fact what ultimately should have only been an opinion.

In a world where we have little want, our basic needs and necessities provided for… THEY want something to fight for. When you live in North America, or really any first world country, we are increasingly becoming a society that seems ill equipped to cope with first world problems. For those of us who “bother” signing on to the internet to share our disgust.. chances are we aren’t dealing with poverty or the threat of death through starvation. No we deal with first world problems like complaining about Music Videos produced in a foreign land with ideals and values different than our own.

Now why do I bring this up?

Tread softly Japanophile.

First of all I want to say that out of all the people reading this.. only 1% of you may have spent a year or longer in Japan. Out of that 1% very few of you would come away with any sort of cultural understanding of the Japanese the way an Anthropologist might. But Jeff, you wonder to yourself, I am a man (or woman!) with a keen eye and have been a fan of Japan since forever.. I notice lot’s of stuff and my mommy tells me I’m smart.

Listen kid… you don’t know everything.

It’s easy to notice the superficial things, we can all be pretty observant to a degree, but you can never let go of your “western” prejudice. It takes practice and a keen sense of observation. Chances are if you live in Japan right now and DO frequent a forum like this.. you are a teacher or studying abroad. It will sound offensive when I say this, but neither of these positions are qualified to pass judgement on a culture at any professional capacity. Living in a culture is not the same as attempting to understand a culture.

Why aren’t I shutting up and getting to the point?

I need you to understand where I am coming from first. 

This is my love letter to everyone who thinks they understand Japan and their culture because they’ve watched Anime or Dramas for most of their waking life. I don’t want to hear your “understanding” of their culture because your understanding.. unless you have a PH.d in Anthropology (or heck, maybe you’re Japanese!).. is going to be wrong. What you are actually referring to is your INTERPRETATION of what they do. Your interpretation is subject to bias and judgement. Neither of which are acceptable tools to create any scientifically acceptable dissertation on the Japanese. You can talk all the shit you want, but no matter how sweetly you attempt to put it, no matter how many of your LiveJournal friends you have to agree with you… it doesn’t make your opinion right.

Okay OKAY.. so what’s this have to do with Heavy Rotation?

Be prepared to be owned fuckers.

I recently picked up this Magazine…

(Photo: It’s a Magazine.. pretty self explanatory huh?)

… and NO that is NOT the entire story smart alec.

AKB48 fans may recognize the name on the cover (NO not Mayuyu!) I mean Mika Ninagawa.

If you haven’t heard of her.. don’t fret. I’ll explain this to you.

She is the woman who had the idea of, and full creative control of, the Heavy Rotation Music Video. SHE is the director of the Heavy Rotation music video.

YES the one with Lingerie. YES the one with girls kissing each other. YES.. the most controversial AKB48 video was created by a woman.

A free-thinking artistic woman who was making her own choices and coming up with her own solutions..

So what the fuck Jeff? Someone prolly told her to do that shit.

Okay whatever numbnuts. Here comes the interview:

(Mika Ninagawa sitting awkwardly with Yasushi Akimoto)

Mika: It’s been a while since I saw you last. Thank you very much for speaking with me.

Yasushi: It’s my pleasure.

Interviewer: This is the third time you’ve seen each other?

Yasushi: I have seen you several times before, but this is actually only the second time we’ve worked together. We produced the “Heavy Rotation” music video together as our first work. I heard that you frequently visited AKB Theatre for several years before that?

Mika: Yes. My friend who is an editor of an anime magazine invited me to the theatre. I became a big fan of AKB48 after that. I remember that there were only two teams at that time. Team A and Team K. I went to the theatre to watch their performance even on Christmas Eve. They were quite cute, but I did not imagine they would get so popular!

Interviewer: Mr. Akimoto asked Ms. Ninagawa to make the “Heavy Rotation” Music Video. Surprisingly, Ms. Ningawa dressed AKB48 up with sexy lingerie, and shot kiss scenes in the video. I have never heard of this scenario before.

Mika: I was under a lot of pressure because Mr. Akimoto left everything to me. He did not give me any tips at all. But this gave me more options to create interesting and exciting content. It pushed me to think deeply about how to make a good music video.

Yasushi: I just wanted to maximize Ms. Ninagawa’s ability to make a good video. For example in the television show “Iron Chef”, as a producer I just supply the raw material to the chef. It is the chefs job to think over the recipe to win the game. In this case, Ms. Ninagawa was the chef and AKB48 was the raw material.

Mika: I was so glad to take this job as a director, but again it was a lot of pressure on me. When I was wondering how to proceed, Mr. Akimoto came to me, saying “Please do what you want to do without any hesitation.”

Yasushi: From my experience, I learn that creators lose their creativity if I give them detailed instructions. As a result, the outcome may be stale. So I let Ms. Ninagawa make “Heavy Rotation” in her way. I also expected to see a different AKB48, created by Ninagawa’s world. Fans could watch their sexy lingerie and kiss scene in the video because it was Ms. Ninagawa decision. I mean, if the director were male, AKB48 might feel unpleasant and refuse to do that. AKB48 completely trusted Ms. Ninagawa, so there was no distrust.

Mika: I tried to show how AKB48 is in real life, in the video. In the dressing room, they seemed very close to each other. Then I came up with the concept, girl’s high school. Mr. Akimoto agreed with this concept. In the video, I set several girl-girl scenes, such as lingerie or kiss scene. I explained to the girls of AKB48 that lingerie did not mean dirty sexuality. In general high school students wear sexy lingerie and show it to each other in the school. I explained my concept of how the lingerie was linked to the innocence and good of AKB48. They comfortably understood my concept and willingly accepted to wear lingerie. I asked AKB48 to choose their hair ornament, but I brought in my fashion team to do their hair and make up. Together we transformed them into a new AKB48. I could see different faces of AKB48 after that. Some members even fell asleep during the stand-by, which we recorded in the video. They were really cute.

Yasushi: It was good timing to release “Heavy Rotation” video. Young girls started to recognize and start talking about AKB48.

Mika: Did you actually think that AKB48 would get so popular?

Yasushi: Frankly speaking, I could expect it. “Heavy Rotation” could send a catch message to the audience. I don’t believe a relationship between recognition and popularity. I wanted to create a group who was not well recognized in public, but who was very popular among their fans.

Mika: What was the most important thing to you about them?

Yasushi: The most important factor was…..

(Mika seen here with her trademark vivid forest of colors!)

The full interview is about 5 or 6 pages long, but I’ve included only the excerpt regarding Heavy Rotation. I didn’t finish reading it, but I’ll add more parts to it in future updates if I feel there is any more points to be made.

So.. to sum up the interview and the point of my very first article for NSK.. even if it was reprinted… is the following:

Suck it.

A JAPANESE WOMAN made this from the perspective of a JAPANESE WOMAN.

If you found the video perverted it’s YOUR OWN FAULT.

You stuck up filthy piece of shit.

Look forward to Part 2 where I find other ways to tell people to shut the hell up in about 1,500 words.

– Jeff T. 
Twitter: @JeffToArms
Website Twitter: @nihongogo


About NSK

New School Kaidan is a community-focused website for the Japanese idol industry international fan base. Between podcasts, broadcasts, events, and analytic articles, New School Kaidan aims to bring an understanding of idol culture to the masses.

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